To shoot that magical nature image, you have to invest time outside – lots of it. And that is the true secret to shooting nature photography and how it differs from other types of photography. You don’t get great nature photos sitting in your chair watching TV.
Sometimes you have to wait until the sun and clouds create that just-right lighting effect. But, while waiting, you also get to see and learn things about the natural world that you never would have known otherwise.
Recognize the signs and be ready. Sometimes you’ll witness a magical event unfolding before your eyes. If you are not out when it is starting to happen, you’ll miss it. Many of the great nature photos taken were simply being at the right place at the right time and having a camera ready to capture the moment.
Along that same line, when you see something happening, take lots of images of it. By the law of averages, you stand to get at least a few great photos. Plus, the more you use your camera, the better your nature photos will become.
Many great shots are taken in the early morning, late afternoon, or right before bad weather. The dramatic lighting found under these conditions is usually what makes these images visually appealing.
Keep the composition and background simple. Highlight your subject by using selective focusing to blur out the background.
If you are shooting close-ups of a stationary subject, move around until your subject stands out from the background. Sometimes by getting low and shooting up, you can use the sky as a background. Or by shooting down, the ground and foliage can become the background; if your subject is brighter than the background, the background will fade to black.
Look for different ways to frame your subject. You can use branches, bushes, rocks, tall grasses and trees are as natural frames for your subject.
Shape, color, contrast and texture will all accent your subject in various ways. The smooth texture of an orchid petal against the rough texture of tree bark will intensify the smoothness of the petal.
Use bracketing where you take one shot at the metered reading and then a shot each one stop over and under from the metered reading. You can use your exposure compensation feature for the over/under shots.
Anytime you are shooting at less than 1/30th shutter speed, use a tripod. Also, by using a tripod, you can concentrate on composing the photo and not holding the camera. In addition to using a tripod, also use a cable release, remote control or your camera self-timer to prevent camera movement.
To keep stray sunlight from hitting your lens and causing flare, use a lens hood. It also provides a margin of protection for your front lens element when you are out in the field.
Using these tips will improve your nature photography images. Use this article as a checklist before capturing images to ensure you have everything covered.